Porto-Novo (pop. 300,000) is the capital of Benin and one of the oldest cities in the country. Building on its colonial past and migratory flows recorded over the centuries, Porto- Novo possesses a unique cultural identity and a creative social dynamic based on sharing and peaceful coexistence. Artisanship in the city of Porto-Novo is highly diverse and organised, with 42 craft guilds. Moreover, families have specialised in specific crafts such as blacksmithing, pottery, wickerwork and the manufacture of musical instruments. The participation of artists and artisans and women in reflection on the city is vital in order to develop a sustainable city project. Through their creativity, they help anchor cultural values, togetherness and cohesion in urban development projects.
The city has organised the first International Festival of Arts and Culture of Porto-Novo. It has also hosted and supported a number of cultural events such as the Festival-Ateliers Éclosions Urbaines [Urban Outbreak Festival-Workshops], a public forum for the expression and exhibition of contemporary art in Porto-Novo. The festival brought together several artists to work on renovating and upgrading the city’s traditional squares. The 4th Porto-Novo West-African Urban Planning Workshops Event had also united architects, geographers, landscape gardeners, sociologists and artists, working jointly on the theme ‘Porto-Novo, Green City’.
As a prelude to the roll-out of its 2015-2019 Municipal Development Plan, Porto-Novo Municipality organised the Forum des forces vives de la cité [Forum on the City’s Vital Forces] in September 2010 to develop Porto-Novo based on the theme of ‘Porto-Novo, City of the Future’. The 2015- 2019 Municipal Plan identified, among the chief restrictions associated with developing the art and craft sectors, the lack of training of craftsmen and women and the lack of resources for the development of arts and crafts, along with the absence of a municipal policy to promote arts and crafts. In this regard, the city is seeking to increase the ways in which culture can play a role to make it an engine for human and urban development.
As a Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, Porto-Novo envisages:
- implementing a strategy to revitalise art, culture and tourism, working jointly with cultural actors to foster the emergence of a mechanism for the participation of artists in regional promotion and development, and to support local foundational artistic creation projects in the area of crafts and folk art;
- developing youth training programmes for crafts, and capacity-building for artists notably through the use of new technologies;
- consolidating the Porto-Novo International Festival and making it an event that promotes local arts and crafts with the participation of other Creative Cities;
- developing cooperation with other cities in the Network within a framework of concrete, inclusive projects that foster a dynamic of togetherness among peoples and South-South and North-South cooperation;
- enhancing the visibility of UNESCO and promoting actions in the field of crafts and folk art; and
- creating links between Beninese and international actors in crafts and folk art.